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Writing Tips for Poetry

Story Force Writing Tips: Haiku
“Haiku” is a traditional form of Japanese poetry. Haiku poems consist of 3 lines. The first and last lines of a Haiku have 5 syllables and the middle line has 7 syllables. The lines rarely rhyme.
Haiku is a fun poem to try! The challenge is the syllables and word choice to convey the scene without room for extra description. One of the issues I have as a veteran is the lost art of running. I had to accept that I am no longer that 18-year-old and that is what this little poem is about.

Running out of air
Feet pounding heart thumping hard
No longer eighteen

By Dr. Tonya Nagle, Marine Veteran, Adjunct Faculty

Story Force Writing Tips: Twitter® Style Poems
Twitter ® is an online news and social networking service where users post and interact with messages, “tweets”, restricted to 140 characters.
Another challenging way to write poetry is to limit yourself in some way. Social media outlet Twitter® is an example. I published this one on Twitter® 9/15/2017. It was inspired by my drive in to work at CFCC, but also signifies the journey of every person in transition, and when are we not in transition these days? In true social media form I included a hashtag (#).

The road ahead is filled with fog. The path there but unseen. The route untraveled. The head worried. The heart mindful. Forward. #poetry
By Dr. Tonya Nagle, Marine Veteran, Adjunct Faculty

Story Force Writing Tips: Personal Essay Outline
A personal essay is essentially a snapshot of a moment in our lives. It is a memory, for better or worse, which we recall in vivid detail. One way to process that memory is to put it somewhere other than our mind. Unsure how to begin? Create an outline.

My outline will enable me to stay on track with the story I am telling in this essay. Often, these memories are combined with, or bring forth, others and can become entwined and tangled if not controlled. Think of it as a Polaroid®. Things were happening before and after this moment, but what we are allowed to view is just that one image.

Intro: Start with the action Intro: The slight scrape and tap of the German Shepherd’s toenails on the cafeteria floor combined with the audible sound of it sniffing had my heart thundering in my chest as I hid, waiting, reminding myself to present the arm wrap when she found me lest I get bit elsewhere.

Body (1-4 paragraphs): Here I would put the play by play of the training mission while trying to engage as many senses as I could. I might talk about the moment my eyes locked with hers, the way her teeth looked longer than my fingers at that moment, the fact that the wrap, for all of its protection, still crunched and gave way to her teeth as she pulled me out of my hiding area. The way her handler called her off and the different dog she became once we were no longer working and she was no longer trying to chew my arm off.

Conclusion: End with a final thought to the reader. Conclusion: Hertha stood on her back paws and placed her front ones on the shoulders of her handler, a Marine standing six foot tall, and looked at him face to face. He praised her for being such a good girl, allowed her to lick the side of his face, and then he threw a large Kong® which she promptly chased. “I extended another year,” he said as I watched the dog settle down on a patch of grass and chew her toy. She looked and acted like a large puppy. I asked, “Why? I thought you were eager to get back to the states and closer to family.” He looked at Hertha and then back to me. “I can’t leave her. She was on thin ice when I got here, but she’s a totally different dog now and I just know when I go they will put her down.” I gulped. The realization that she could not leave with him settled in and I thought about how unfair that was to both of them. He called for her and she immediately brought him her toy. “Maybe someday they will let them move with us, or adopt them, or something, but right now if they get too old, or can’t adapt to a new handler, they euthanize them. My folks will understand.” I looked at the beast healed at his side and smiled at her. From that day forward, I held a special place in my heart for military working dogs and every opportunity I had to sign a petition, write a letter, or aid the life of one, I have. I rejoice every time someone is allowed to adopt their K-9 partner and I still advocate for our four-legged veterans. One day of helping a friend with training became a lifetime of advocacy.

By Dr. Tonya Nagle, Marine Veteran, Adjunct Faculty

Writing Tips for Non-Fiction

Often when writing about real events we worry about using real names, dates, and places. Military members, veterans, and families may have a story to tell, but worry about the security issues, impact on others, and backlash on self. Here are some tips to telling your truth, but providing cover for everyone else involved:

1. Put a disclaimer at the start or end stating names, dates, organizations have been changed to protect the identity.
For example, I was assigned to Headquarters Support Battalion, Marine Corps Base, Camp Lejeune Military Police Company in 1995. To alter this, I could say I was assigned to a military base on the east coast as a military police officer in the mid-nineties.

2. Protecting the innocent, guilty, and yourself.
During my time as a military police officer, I saw horrible events and arrested a lot of people. While I don’t particularly prefer talking about it, writing is a means of putting those thoughts somewhere outside of my head for a while. To protect myself and others I could change some things around.

One example could be the time I arrived to the Marine Corps Exchange on a call to pick up a shoplifter only to discover the shoplifter was being treated by EMTs.
This young person had a razor blade protruding from the bottom lip. The person had stolen a pair of shoes, tripped on the way out, and the blade thankfully, went forward instead of back as the individual fell.

This makes for a vague commentary, but you know, as a reader the truth of this incident is in the fact that this was a kid committing a crime and getting injured in the process. You may decide from the information I gave in the last example this happened at a base on the east coast, but of course, I had more than one duty station, so leaving the location out means it could have happened at any Marine base. I could further suppress the identity by calling it a military shopping center, as words such as PX and BX, even exchange, often identifies a branch of service.

3. Switch it up: If someone is tall, make them short. You can change the race, the hair, eye color, or any other relevant details. If the person is single, now he or she is married. No kids, well, give them three.

The events still happen, and that is the truth of it. Altering the identity of an individual or being vague about timelines and locations can help protect you and them should someone read your work and believe they know someone. This is a good practice even if the story is not something you believe someone would be worried about. It adds another layer of comfort to your writing and you know that no one will come back later and claim you tried to signal someone out.

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